My parent’s situation was unique. Within three days of each other my mother had a brain aneurysm and my father had a stroke, causing each to be unable to make medical decisions for the other. From the book-
Initially, my brothers and I felt uncomfortable making medical decisions for our parents. We had no roadmap, no expertise, no familiarity with the medical jargon. We just wanted them both ‘better’, whatever better meant.
They had never directly discussed their wishes with us and we never gave it much consideration. We were unprepared. I guess no one wanted to acknowledge we might someday need this type of information. Up to this point our mom and dad lived a relatively healthy and independent life together. They never brought it up, so neither did we. One of my mother’s favorite sayings is, “Why tempt fate?”
Besides, questions like this feel like prying. They are difficult to ask (though easy enough to answer), because they bring up larger issues and make people uneasy. I can hear my father now, “What? You think I’m dying?”
Our parents did at least have living wills, written with the help of an attorney years before all this happened. The wills were prepared when they were both healthy and clear. They remain important documents, making medical decisions my brothers and I would have a difficult time making and agreeing on.
Advance medical directives concern treatment preferences and choice of who can make medical decisions on a person’s behalf if they become unable to make the decisions themselves. Advance directives generally fall into three categories: health care proxy, durable power of attorney and living will.
Health care proxy: A legal document that designates someone to make health care decisions for an individual if he/she becomes incapable of making their wishes known.
Durable power of attorney: The durable power of attorney allows someone to make bank transactions (sign checks, pay bills, etc) or apply for disability or other programs on behalf of someone else while that individual is medically incapacitated.
Living will: This is a written document that specifies what types of medical treatment a person desires. Generally, a living will describes certain life prolonging treatments. A living will may state, “If I should become unable to make and communicate my own decisions on life sustaining or life support procedures, then my dying shall not be delayed, prolonged or extended artificially by medical science or life sustaining medical procedures.”
In the U.S., it is estimated four out of every five adults has no advance directive. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age.